Companies like Patagonia, Warby Parker, and Ben & Jerry’s have all achieved growth due to their social and environmental campaigning. Getting behind a worthy cause can bring your brand closer to customers. It also helps you stand out from your competitors. But socially responsible marketing can go wrong too.
In this guide, we’ll explore why socially responsible marketing is important. We’ll look at some of the tactics successful brands have used and why.
We’ll also look at how socially responsible marketing can backfire.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Socially Responsible Marketing?
Socially responsible marketing is when a company uses its marketing activities to positively change society. It is about taking action and promoting messaging that positively impacts customers, employees, society, and the environment.
This can include using recycled packaging, campaigns that raise awareness about issues or donating to charity.
For example, outdoor clothing brand Patagonia donates 1% of its profits to environmental causes worldwide. The company documents the environmental impact of the organizations it supports on its blog.
Patagonia successfully positioned the brand as much more than a clothing company. It has a clear mission that attracts like-minded consumers.
3 Reasons to Be Socially Responsible in Marketing
There are lots of ways businesses can benefit from socially responsible marketing. Here are the three most compelling reasons why you should get behind a good cause:
Consumers Hold Socially Responsible Companies in High Regard
Socially responsible marketing is a great way to position your brand. It helps create a positive impression on consumers. As a result, you can boost customer trust and generate goodwill with customers.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been difficult for people all over the world. The way companies carried themselves during this time was noticed. This will be remembered by consumers.
A study by Deloitte shows that 79% of people could remember by name companies that took actions to help employees, customers, and society during the pandemic.
This positive image can also increase profits. According to a survey by Nielsen group, 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for goods and services from socially responsible companies.
When promoted with email and social media personalized messaging, you can bring your brand closer to consumers and boost customer retention.
A Relevant Concept for All Audiences
Social responsibility is relevant for everyone. Every audience segment has causes they believe in and care about.
Consumers expect brands to reflect their values and take a position on environmental and societal issues. This is especially important in the current climate. The impact of the pandemic has caused shoppers to focus on value and trust.
Trust matters more than ever. According to Salesforce’s latest State of the Connected Consumer report, 78% of people believe the year’s crises should be a catalyst for business improvement.
Trust is the number one way consumers feel that companies can improve. Consumers want to buy from brands they can trust.
A Meaningful Differentiation
By making change happen and doing something to improve the world, you set yourself apart.
Being different is about identifying and communicating a benefit that your customers can’t get from a competitor. That benefit creates a brand preference that influences buying decisions.
According to a study by Cone Inc., 89% of millennials are likely or very likely to switch to a brand associated with a good cause.
Having a mission that shows your values can differentiate your brand and give you a competitive advantage.
Examples of Socially Responsible Marketing
There are lots of different approaches to socially responsible marketing. The right strategy depends on your industry and what consumers expect from your brand.
TOMS Shoes has made social responsibility a core element of its brand identity. The company was established with a charitable mission. Every time a pair of TOMS Shoes is bought, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need.
Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS Shoes, launched the company and its mission after witnessing extreme poverty during a trip to South America.
Socially responsible marketing is not something unique to smaller brands. In 2020, Adidas launched a gender-neutral store in London’s Soho district. The store is designed for Generation Z consumers and highlights inclusivity.
The home appliances company Bosch is in an industry where environmental concerns impact consumer purchasing decisions. Bosch embraced socially responsible marketing. The company is committed to cut emissions by 15% by 2030.
Criticism of Socially Responsible Marketing
Socially responsible marketing brings its own set of challenges. When not done correctly, it can also backfire for brands.
Communicating a message to a niche audience can be perceived as insensitive if the tone or message misses the mark.
In 2019, Gillette launched its “The Best Men Can Be” campaign to provoke discussion about the perception of masculinity in society. The campaign won praise from some audiences for its bold approach to tackle an issue but also faced criticism from sections of its customer base.
The launch video has over 37 million views on YouTube, with twice as many “dislikes” as “likes”:
A report in Marketing Week showed that the perception of the Gillette brand had taken a hit following the campaign. However, it may have strengthened the brand image with some customer segments.
Socially responsible marketing can also be problematic if consumers suspect that messaging is untrue. Companies that claim to be eco-friendly without taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint are often described as taking part in “greenwashing”.
For example, clothing retailer H&M used socially responsible marketing to highlight the use of sustainable organic cotton in its “H&M Conscious” campaign. However, a 2021 report by the Changing Markets Foundation showed that 96% of the brand’s claims around sustainability were not true.
When consumers feel that a company is using socially responsible marketing in an untrue way, it can damage the brand and consumer trust.
With the right messaging and actions, socially responsible marketing can be a powerful strategy. It can boost your bottom line and help to improve society and the wider world.
“Marketers make things better by making change happen.”
Seth Godin, American author
By telling the people who you are, what you believe in, and what you’re doing to change the world, you become much more than a company. When it works, it’s a win-win situation for your business.